IBM's 7nm chip set to improve computer speed by 50 per cent

IBM Research has announced it made a major breakthrough in chip manufacturing, as it produced the first working microchip on a 7nm process. The chip could improve the speed of your computer by 50 per cent, but it will still need years of development before it’s ready for mass production.

"7nm node has remained out of reach due to a number of fundamental technology barriers," The Verge quotes the company saying.

The development is the work of a joint project between IBM Research, GlobalFoundries and the State University of New York, and has so far cost $3 billion (£1.9 billion) in research, Alphr writes in a report.

The company plans on investing another $3 billion over the next five years, ZDNet says in a report.

“It’s a major step,” said Mukesh Khare, vice president of semiconductor technology at IBM Research. “We have been working on this technology for more than five years.”

For comparison, a 7nm node is a bit larger than human DNA, which is 2.5nm in diameter. Creating processors at that size has led to degraded chip performance. Mature processors today range from 10nm to 14nm to 22nm in size, ZDNet says.

According to IBM, the 7nm test chip with working transistors was created using processes cooked up by its research team including Silicon Germanium (SiGe) channel transistors and Extreme Ultraviolet (EUV) lithography.

This breakthrough also marks the continuation of Moore’s law, an observation that says how over the history of computing hardware, the number of transistors in a dense integrated circuit doubles approximately every two years.